IPA calls for ATO IT accountability

The Institute of Public Accountants (IPA) has called for greater accountability from the ATO in the form of a service agreement in light of the ongoing technology issues that have significantly impacted on accountants and tax agents across Australia.

“The IPA has constantly heard the plea of our members who have suffered ongoing IT issues with the ATO,” IPA chief executive Andrew Conway noted.

“We know that the ATO is doing whatever it can to rectify the failing functionality of its IT systems, but apologies do not undo the pain that it is inflicting.

“While some of our members have called for compensation, we are realistic in our expectations.

“However, it should be recognised that accountants and tax agents have worn the brunt of this issue over many years.”

Conway said while clients of tax practitioners were generally not disadvantaged, very few concessions were granted to the tax practitioners themselves.

“To give context to the significance of this issue, 74 per cent of taxpayers go to a tax agent to look after their affairs and 95 per cent for business,” he said.

“Consequently, our members do the heavy lifting and are reliant on the ATO systems to service their clients.

“While the ATO is pursuing a digital-by-default strategy, stakeholders need systems available 24/7.”

As a result of the ongoing system issues, IPA members have experienced reputational damage with their clients along with loss of productivity.

“These factors play a big part in the status of their mental health and wellbeing,” Conway warned.

“When critical systems go down, client appointments get cancelled, support staff lay idle and backlogs start piling up.

“When there is a major outage, everything grinds to a halt.”

The IPA said it believed there should be a service commitment from the ATO in the form of an agreement where there were specified and agreed service levels, and if those service levels were not met, penalties should apply.

“This would be akin to the arrangements that operate in the commercial world with critical service providers,” Conway said.

“Our members are subjected to key performance benchmarks when it comes to lodgements, so it is not unreasonable to ask that the ATO has its own benchmark to improve accountability around IT service delivery.”

Earlier this month, IPA technical policy general manager Tony Greco told selfmanagedsuper the IPA had sent a stakeholder impact statement to the Inspector-General of Taxation (IGT) for its inquiry into the future of the tax profession.

The IGT is an independent statutory body responsible for reviewing systemic issues at the ATO and could produce a report with a recommendation to reimburse those affected.

“Unfortunately we’re still getting hiccups; how much more is a good question,” Greco said at the time.

“We will keep the compensation issue alive and well, especially if there are more outages, as there should be something more substantive than another apology.”

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